26 February 2006

FAQ: Disable computer devices

One of my friends told me a few days ago that his computer's DVD writer drive was on the blink. I can suppose that the reason for this is irresponisble children, the little blighters! I have a solution that you can follow if you also have an annoying pest so that they can't use the DVD drive.
Basically, all you need to do is disable energy resources to the DVD drive. You can do this via a really helpful utility on Windows called Device Manager. Right-click My Computer, go to Properties, look up the top and choose Hardware, then click Device Manager.
The image on the left shows you what you need to do: first, find which device you want to disable (please take care when disabling some things), right-click it, then click 'Disable'. It should work, but I have not tested it yet. I presume that it will disable you from using the drive, and everyone else, and so annyoing little brothers and sisters can't use it anymore! Just remember that if you want to use it, then you need to Enable it again!

22 February 2006

A New Face for Media Players

Formerly Reality Bytes: When Technology Turns Bad, 08/10/2005
Please read this blog for more information on playing video clips.
I have another link some of you may find useful - anybody who downloads movies will know that playing incomplete files is a useful thing, but some users will also know that Windows Media Player can't play incomplete files... so I used Google to find a free player and here it is: the VLC Media Player. VLC can play almost every audio/video format, including DVD/CD (this includes all the menu systems as well!) and even streams! See this page for the full features list.

FAQ: File Recovery

My good friend Jack told me today that his computer is constantly losing files due to one of his family members rebuilding the system again and again. Ha ha ha. He asked me about file recovery, and if he would be able to get his files back. This is what I told him:

I know of one program I have tried before, called GetDataBack. Really good and useful program. I once was using my USB Disk Drive and at a certain point I wasn't able to get to my files, so I installed this program and it recovered 99% of my files! Read more about it on this page, by clicking the tab on the right called Personal additions, then scroll down to GetDataBack. View screenshots by clicking the image on the left.

The Gadget Show recently did an article about File Recovery, I will link it soon. They said that if you delete a file from your computer, even from the Recycle bin, it can still be fully restored - and they tried it! I believe the files are called unallocated files - this means that the files are still on your computer, but they are marked as being 'deleted', and not actually erased from your computer.

You can also of course, try System Restore on Windows ME - XP. There are some link about how to use it here (see thr bottom right of the page).

I thought that on this topic, I could also talk about Norton GoBack 4 - a full system restore utility. A friend gave it to me as a software part of bundled package with Anti-Virus so I tried it out. I just made a list at the time about how good it is at doing its thing:

  • Loads an interrupt access screen on boot so system can be restored before loading Windows
  • Loads an image onto the welcome screen saying ‘protected by Norton GoBack’
  • Doesn’t seem to require a product key
  • Adapts into LiveUpdate and includes the 4.02 update after initial installation
    This upgrade will delete all previous history and will disable the program while updating.
  • Version history
    Adds a context menu for all files on computer to look for previous versions
  • File and and version rescue
    For searching for lost/deleted files
  • Post-restore file rescue
    After a disk restore, you can find files that were lost
  • Disk drive recovery
    General restore points
    Advanced restore
  • Compare to a virtual drive
  • SafeTry Mode
    A mode to try out software or system settings changes so that the system is fully restored afterwards
  • AutoBack
    Schedule restorations (e.g. limited users)
  • 14 February 2006

    Computer Research Project... Reloaded!

    Today I was watching Newsround and then they did a report about a new research project designed for Climate Change. And I thought, isn't this a whole lot similar to the World Community Grid (please check my previous posts for more information).
    Read more about it here: BBC Report | Experiment Website
    Apparently, this one is meant to be easier to set up, but it isn't really. So just make sure you read it carefully when doing it and loading the program. The main thing I think they are missing are graphics - the World Community Grid Agent has a very simple interface, but this BBC Experiment is actually difficult to use at first.
    Update 17/02/06: It turns out that this Climate Change project is part of the BOINC Network. BOINC Manager is the program that manages the Climate Change project, and amongst many other projects like SETI@home (for extra-terristrial life), it also includes the World Community Grid!
    As always, Wikipedia has created a wonderful article all about it here.

    12 February 2006

    Friday Night TV on C4

    I love the new series of The IT Crowd - it's so funny and so true when they are talking about computers. lol
    I was checking out the Channel 4 website, and found this page. I think Moss's profile quite suits mine, except where his mum does his clothes and hair - I do that myself! What do you think? Post a comment below.

    11 February 2006

    Downloading Music & The Law

    Here is a quick guide to what I know about the laws on music:
    (this includes MP3, M4A and "MP4")
  • By "distribute", it means to give, share or copy music so that someone else has a local copy of it. This includes sending it via email, hosting it on a website and other forms (read below).
  • It also means that you will not stream whole tracks of music or play them too loud so they can be heard in public (outside).
    (this is called the Fair Use Policy) read about it here, or read an example here.)
  • This means you can copy music on your favourite CDs to other devices, e.g. your computer, your MP3 Player (including iPods) in a suitable storage format.
  • This means that even though you may have a copy of it on your computer, for example, you must not:
  • a) Send it to others with a File Sharing program (Peer to Peer Networks, or P2P).
  • b) Burn a copy of it onto another CD or other audio format for either personal use or to sell to others (even to give freely)
  • In some cases, copyrighted material can be used for educational purposes.
    Effectively, it is your own choice to download music, and it is your responsibility if you are in possession of it unless you have an original, unedited copy.
    Either to ask the artist for permission, or actually buy the music. Unless, you are the artist, in which you can freely do whatever you want to do with it. I hear that iTunes Music Store is very popular.
    Read more on the links above about Fair Use, or look on the links just below.
    BBC Click, January 26th 2006: DRM Debates and Music website links.
    BBC Click, June 8th 2006: Copying CD music to a MP3 is legal

    8 February 2006

    FAQ: Symantec Norton Firewall

    God, this bit of software can be really hard to install, and when it comes to the Firewall, hard to use as well.
    The first step you want to do is make sure that the account that you are using on your computer is set to Administrator (as in the type). If you alternatively set it to Limited then you will not be able to do certain things, like use a wireless connection. Beat this by making sure that you are Admin or that an Admin is logged on.
    If you have problems with software not being able to access the Internet, turn off your firewall and any other real-time protection software (this means it scans your computer as soon as it loads up and as long as its running and you're doing something on your computer). PLEASE REMEMBER to turn your firewall back on when you are finished with it! If you leave it open, it is much more likely that hackers can get in.
    If that fails, try turning ALL of Norton Internet Security or Anti-Virus off and see what happens.
    IMPORTANT: Make sure you only ever have only 1 firewall turned on. If you have Norton, McAfee or another Firewall, please turn off Windows Firewall on Windows XP. If you have more than 1 firewall active, the firewalls will conflict with each other and cause even more problems for you. You can probably find out more information on the Dell Community Fourm that I have posted on.
    Sometimes installing programs like Norton can be a real trip to hell and back, and I have tried. When I first installed it in 2004 (NIS 2005), I had a few errors. I reinstalled it, having problems meanwhile, so then I tried again and it worked. I haven't had any problems since, apart from the Firewall playing up, but at one point I had to reinstall Norton.
    I used one of the programs with these names: RNAV2003, SYMCLN or the Norton Uninstall tool.
    Now, I installed NIS 2005 way back in 2004, and mid-2005, it was coming close to the end of the Annual Subscription. I also had an error that was pissing me off. So I used one of the programs above, and it cleaned my computer of all traces of Norton. Wiped out completely. And then, when I reinstalled it, the subscription End Date had exceeded to mid-2006! So this is just a bit of advice for you if you want to stay with the old NIS - use this program to reset it, but make sure you still have the CD/installer source!
    Thanks to my good friend Jack who asked me about this problem he was having!

    4 February 2006

    Gadget Show 27/1/06 - The Critical List

    This time: What is the best media device?
    Report transcript as follows:
    <-- Incredibly, 7 out of every 10 MP3 players sold, are made by Apple. In fact, the iPod, is the gadget success story of the 21st century. And it’s not hard to see why, the 60GB iPod video, and slinky Nano are revolutionary products. But the rivals are just starting to catch up.
    --> Sony invented the personal stereo back in the 1980’s. And the latest edition to the walkman range is this slinky hard drive number. This one, is a 6GB version (Sony Walkman £140), but it’s also available as a 20GB. And they both share some really cool features. For example, this is the button at the side, is the Artists Link feature. What that will do is, go away and find all the artists of a similar genre, to the one that you’re listening to. You can also use a time machine function, which randomly selects a year, and then plays all the songs from that year.
    <-- This is the 20GB version of the Toshiba Gigabeat (£180), and the best feature about this, is that it can store and show your photos. Cause it’s got this huge colour screen that’s really crisp, and makes it a worthy iPod rival. Of course, it does all the music stuff as well, although the menu system is a little bit complicated. And this touch sensitive cross shaped controller looks really cool, but is actually a little bit difficult to use.
    Philips HDD6230 (£190): This is Philips 30GB hard drive player, and in terms of looks alone, it’s a real match for the iPod. This back click touch sensitive display really adds a touch of class to it all. You can also use the Philips to store your photos, although the 2 inch display is a little bit small to see them in their full glory. Its best feature though, has to be the 20 hour battery life, which puts it well ahead of many rivals.
    --> This is the 6GB version of the I-River H10 (£150), and it does just about everything. It will play music of course, but it will also display your photos on the colour screen. It’s got an FM radio built in, it’s even got a voice recorder, it also has a removable battery, so you can always carry a spare with you. But my favourite feature of the H10 has to be its ability to record direct from a CD player or any other audio source.
    <-- But if I had to swap my iPod for one other player on the market, I’d go for this. The Creative Zen Vision M (£239). This is a 30GB player, you’ll store your music, your photos, and your movies. In fact, its got a better screen than the iPod video, and it supports more movie formats. You can even use it to store your home movies. There’s plenty of other things too: its got an FM radio, a voice recorder, and a removable battery. In fact, this really is the player that does it all.

    Gadget Show 27/1/06

    More Technology news...
    They invented the game Space Invaders, but since their failure to produce good games, they have never reached the top of the charts again - neither their consoles (like Lynx) or games (like Path of Neo).
    What's it's like for a gadget guy... without all the gadgets for a day.
    Comparing Microsoft's Digital Image Suite 2006 (about £30 on the internet), Photoshop Elements 4.0 (best price around £50 on the internet), Corel's Paint Shop Pro (best internet price: about £60) and Google Picasa (free).
    The best Photo Printer - Epson Stylus Photo R800
    A survey about what technology we find most useful in our lives: a computer, a television, a mobile phone, or an MP3 player.
    How to back up your contacts on your mobile phone
  • Memory master – Carphone Wearhouse - Copy SIM card for £2, if card is lost, you can get the replacement Orange & Motorola (same)
  • SIM Tools Backup Device £10 250 numbers – edit and transfer
  • SIM Card Manager £20 for use with USB to PC for editing. Save text messages and synchronise automatically
  • New mobiles should come with own software - Works with Outlook Express to copy all data
  • 3 February 2006

    FAQ: Clear out the IE Address dropdown list

    One really good mate asked me this today: When I click the address bar, I have loads of addresses that I've typed in, how do I delete them? I can provide a simple answer. Unfortunately it isn't easy for users of Internet Explorer compared to Firefox, but I know and use a program that can clean both, and more!
    Internet Explorer tab
    You can clear up all your internet and computer history with just a few clicks - all in one place! Temporary Internet Files, History, AutoComplete, Typed URLs, Cookies - all for both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox!
    System tabOther files on your computer include Temporary Files, Prefetch Files, Recent Documents, Flash Cookies and more! You can also clean up "Open" history lists for popular programs like Office and Media Player. Plus, if you want to clean up your own custom folders or registry edits, you can do it with this program too!
    IE Privacy Keeper also has a function called Secure Delete. When you want to delete a file so that you will never ever be able to get it back again, even if you scan your computer, you can use this context menu item (when you right click a file) to delete it securely. You can also set it to overwrite the file several times to make it even more difficult to recover!
    You can also download a standalone version if you don't want to install it. It has limited features but works mostly the same. Download TakeAlong Version.

    Luca Maciswrote:
    Thanks for that Rob. I needed some help on that. Everyone rele should get that IE privacy keeper.
    Feb. 3 | Delete

    2 February 2006

    FAQ: MSN Messenger keeps asking to update

    If you ever get the yellow infobar at the top of your contacts list, it does mean that you need to upgrade to the new version. Yes, there is a newer version of "7.5".
    To check your version, open MSN Messenger, then up the top, click Help and then About MSN Messenger. After where it says "Version 7.5", read what the build number says.
    If it does not read "Build 7.5.0322" then you need to update it. Download MSN here.


    My mum was just cooking my pizza, she was taking it out of the cooker and then she almost burnt her finger, so she dropped the pizza... and now it's stuck in the cooker!
    My cooker ate my pizza!
    It fell inside the gap between the cooker door and the cooker...
    Rest In Pieces...

    1 February 2006

    Calling All Matrix Fans

    Anyone who is interested in The Matrix will know that there is a mini series of The Matrix called The Animatrix.
    I watched all 9 episodes, and to be quite honest, I thought it was quite good. It's a collection of different stories that some people face while in the Matrix - an exploration of the ideas. The Animatrix is designed either by hand drawings, using a famous Japanese designing technique thing that looks wicked! I can't remember what it's called but the commenaties on the DVD said it's a lot like the film Akira (1988).
    For anyone that would like to watch them, there are some full-length free episodes on the Animatrix website, www.intothematrix.com
    I suggest any Matrix fans watch The Second Renaissance Parts 1 + 2, they really explain how the hell the Matrix came to be. I like all the other episodes though, it's quite good. This story, in the beginning part, reminded me of "I, Robot".
    Kid's Story also explains why Neo had that feeling that it wasn't all real - "like his dreams were more real than his life". This ties in to Matrix Revolutions and how Neo managed to get Kid into Zion.
    I also like Beyond, which explains what happens when there are coding problems in the Matrix. This uses true Japanese animation.
    Some Enter The Matrix gamers may also have heard of The Final Flight of the Osiris. It shows what happens before the machines start digging for Zion. It uses very good computer graphics animation to tell the story.
    Matriculated, A Detective Story, World Record and Program are just stories of other people in the Matrix.
    Enjoy it!